Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Year 9, Day 179 - 6/28/17 - Movie #2,673

BEFORE: I know, I skipped a day - I went out to the movies on Monday night, and when I came home instead of watching Tuesday's movie I decided to catalog some comic books, watch a few hours of TV and such - then I had to take a couple hours on Tuesday and re-organize the list once again.  Why?  It's complicated...

I've been planning for a while to transition to some animated films, because I found a whole bunch of them on Netflix (my wife has an account) that haven't run on premium cable yet.  Maybe they're available On Demand, but I'm not paying $4 or $5 each for things that are going to be free (OK, not really, because cable bill) on HBO or Starz in a few months.  So I figured I'd transition to a week of animated films and catch up a bit - sure, I could watch the Academy screeners, but watching Netflix is even more convenient, plus no "For Your Consideration" subtitles pop up every 15 minutes.  And the most logical entry point came from J.K. Simmons carrying over from "Patriots Day" to "Zootopia".

(It's a hard transition between the two films, I know, but at least I'm going from a film about Boston cops to a film with CGI animal cops.)

And there's a logical exit point for the animated chain, too - well, logical by my standards, which may not match yours - but one that gets me within spitting distance of "Spider-Man: Homecoming".  But what should happen in-between "Zootopia" and the last animated film in the chain took some working out.

Now, the great thing about animated films is that there are professional voice actors who work VERY frequently.  Once I get myself to some animation, it makes sense to stick with the subject, because many of the same actors pop up again and again.  Even the actors who work mostly in live-action, if they've got distinctive voices, they may do a lot of animation - like J.K. Simmons, for example, who did a voice for "Kung Fu Panda 3", plus he's the voice of J. Jonah Jameson in Marvel's animated shows, and now here he is again, voicing the mayor in the town of Zootopia.  If I can find a few more actors like that, who've appeared in multiple animated films, then I've got my chain. 

So I found there were 18 animated films released that I have an interest in seeing - I had a path that took me through 8 of them, but I was still falling short - so I typed out the credits for all the films in a Word doc, and color-coded the actors that appeared more than once, and I found a way to work in one more film (yeah, I know - a lot of effort for a small improvement) and the other 9 films seem to link to each other, more or less, so I'll get back to them shortly.  And good news, I saw the correct film on Monday night, out of two possible choices, so I'll post that review in a few days.

Now, the hard part - spending a week on Netflix, catching up on animated features that were NOT on my watchlist (I'm sure they would have been there in the future, though) means that my list will not decrease in size for the next week and a half - so I'm going to try to NOT add any films during that time, which for me is not easy.  But I can't backslide - which means I can only add a film to the list when I take one off, so I'm going to try and hold the line here, and not let my list get any bigger while I'm distracted by the cartoons. 

THE PLOT: In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy. 

AFTER: Damn, but this is clever.  So much good stuff here to process and enjoy, not just for kids but of course there are jokes in here that adults can appreciate, too - like references to "Breaking Bad", "The Wire" and "Shawshank Redemption".  Plus there are plenty of little in-jokes, references to other Disney or Disney-adjacent films, like the fact that Alan Tudyk did the voice of the Duke of Weselton in "Frozen", and here he voices a weasel named Duke Weaselton - I love that sort of thing.  But you really have to pay attention to see these things -

Like the first time we see the fox, Nick Wilde - he was running a clever scheme (one of many, probably) and I couldn't figure it out at first.  It's rare to see a scam in a film where I'm not able to track what's going down.  And this is just his "fox-like" nature asserting itself, the film dives into these questions about whether every animal can only stay true to it's own nature, or whether they can rise above it and become something else.  This rings true in a kids' movie, because parents are always telling their kids they can be whatever they want when they grow up, but I bet that at least 90% of the time, it's just typical parental B.S.

The city of Zootopia has every kind of animal in it, and visually it sort of reminded me of the children's books I used to read, like ones illustrated by Richard Scarry, where animals all wore clothes and held human-like jobs and everyone got along peacefully.  But "Zootopia" really ramped up the scale, since the city is on a huge island and has 12 different environmental zones, everything from Saharan desert to Arctic tundra.  And there are tiny towns for the small animals, like mice, and then there are large-scale things that accommodate the giraffes and hippos.  So it's clear that someone put a lot of thought into the logistics of this - or maybe they just went to the zoo with their kids and got inspired.

A lot of the time having all these different animals in one city leads to comic results, like having the sloths work at the DMV - we've all waited in line for a long time there, right?  But then there are the questions that result from having the small tasty animals living right next to the large, hungry ones.  When we the audience visit the town, we're told that this was all worked out long ago, that all of the animals now live in harmony - but they don't explain exactly how this works.  Is every animal now a vegetarian?  Do the predators have to wait for the smaller animals to die from natural causes?  I bet a kid would take this system at face value, but as an adult, I want to know how this is all supposed to function.

In fact, it may not work, because the number of animals that have disappeared in recent days (mostly large mammals, but also one notable otter) leads our hero bunny cop to discover that some of the residents of Zootopia might be turning "savage" again - which is an interesting way to maybe put a spin on tragic news stories that make no sense.  Kids might wonder why we have killers, why people seem to go off the deep end and shoot up a nightclub or stab people on the street.  Well, it's hard to tell kids that those people just aren't working right, or that they've got some beast inside of them that compels them to kill.  So here's an animated metaphor that might lead to some understanding.

(Look, kids, the quicker you figure out this world is a terrible, dangerous, unfair place, the better prepared you'll be for being an adult.  I don't know why animals eat each other, or why humans eat animals, they just do.  I don't know why some bad people kill other good people, they just do.  No, it's not fair, but nobody ever said that the world was fair.  Can you grow up to be anything you want?  Well, no, because you can't be a fish or a pig, despite what Bing Crosby sang about.  Oh, you meant can you have any JOB that you want?  Well, yes and no, I mean, a lot of that depends on you and how hard you want to work at something - but even then, things might not go your way, and you could end up in a job that you hate.  It's probably easier to find a job that utilizes your particular skill set than to reach beyond your abilities, or try and modify your skill set for a more difficult career. See, I would totally keep it 100% real, and this is probably why it's a good thing that I don't have any kids...)

Judy Hopps is a great character, because she's a bunny, and a girl, and everyone expects her to be a carrot farmer like her 245 siblings (yeah, you know, because rabbits mate like, umm, rabbits).  But she wants to be a cop, and she's very energetic and starry-eyed, but, and this is important, she's also willing to put in the time and the effort to get there.  So this is a great message, especially for a generation of kids that is constantly entertained and over-stimulated and (for the most part) spoiled rotten.  Show me the American kid that doesn't have parents giving them everything they will be much harder for those kids to learn the lesson later that they have to work to get what they need and want when they're adults. 

Maybe I'm reading too much into this - maybe you just want to see a police procedural that plays out like a spoof of a "Law & Order" episode, only with animals.  Or maybe you just want to appreciate the puns in a world where stores have names like "Trader Doe's" and "Urban Snoutfitters".  OK, the movie will work for you too, because it does work on so many levels.  Kudos for that.

Also starring the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin (last seen in "He's Just Not That Into You"), Jason Bateman (last seen in "The Sweetest Thing"), Idris Elba (last seen in "Star Trek Beyond"), Jenny Slate (last heard in "The Lorax"), Nate Torrence (last seen in "The Big Year"), Octavia Spencer (last seen in "Snowpiercer"), Alan Tudyk (last seen in "28 Days"), Shakira, Bonnie Hunt (last seen in "Return to Me"), Don Lake (last seen in "Dumb and Dumber To"), Tommy Chong (last seen in "Cheech and Chong's Next Movie"), Kristen Bell (last seen in "Safety Not Guaranteed"), Maurice LaMarche (last heard in "The Boxtrolls"), Raymond S. Persi, Tommy "Tiny" Lister, John Dimaggio (last heard in "Batman: Under the Red Hood"), Phil Johnston, Katie Lowes (last heard in "Big Hero 6"), Gita Reddy (last seen in "The Bourne Legacy"), Jesse Corti (last seen in "Gone in 60 Seconds"), Josh Dallas, Peter Mansbridge, Mark "Rhino" Smith (last seen in "Criminal").

RATING: 7 out of 10 lemmings - and THANK YOU Disney for finally getting this right!  Lemmings may follow each other in a line, but they do NOT jump off cliffs just because the others ones do!  (Of course, this falsehood came from a Disney "documentary" back in the day, so it seems only fitting that DisneyCorp should correct its own mistake, albeit 60 or 70 years later.) 

No comments:

Post a Comment